NASA has released a new video that shows the giant asteroid 4179 Toutatis tumbling through space on its flyby of Earth. This video is about 40 seconds long, combines 64 radar images taken Dec. 12 and 13 by NASA‘s Deep Space Network antenna in Goldstone, California. On those days, the asteroid Toutatis was about 7 million kilometers from Earth, or about 18 times farther away than our Moon is. The asteroid never posed a threat to Earth on its recent flyby, and researchers say there is no chance it will hit our planet over the next four centuries or so.
The radar images, which have a resolution of 3.75 meters per pixel, show the 5 kilometers asteroid in striking detail. Toutatis is revealed to be an elongated, irregularly shaped object with multiple ridges, researchers said. Strange bright glints may indicate surface boulders, they added. The asteroid spins about its long axis every 5.4 days and wobbles through space like a badly thrown football, scientists said.
The Asteroid Toutatis makes one trip around the sun every four years. Its next close encounter with Earth will come in November 2069, when the space rock will fly safely by at about 3 million km, or 7.7 Earth-Moon distances.